Gaining Perspective: Three generations of men describe today’s world

By Michael Booker

Three generations of men share what it was like when they grew up — and what the world looks like to them today.


“The access to opportunities now is insane.”

Ralph Taylor, 72, is a former Pennsylvania state trooper. Photo credit: Michael Booker


Ralph Taylor, 72, was the fifth black person in 1968 to become a Pennsylvania state trooper.

“Three days before I graduated, MLK Jr. had been assassinated. So I was sent down to Pittsburgh to help handle the rioting,” he said.

People in the black communities would offer him food because, at that time, it was a relief to see an African-American man as a state trooper protecting them. He believed there was a sense of community back then. Especially in his neighborhood. He said everyone took care of each other, you knew everyone’s name, and you respected everyone as you would yourself. He believes those earlier neighborhood moments helped young people in their development.

“Back in my times whenever you were acting up or showed disrespect, anybody could give you a licking.  Adults were to be respected. I can remember when my parents were talking to somebody, and I would wait patiently until one of them spoke to me. There were no interruptions.”

“I’ve seen it all,” he said. But, one thing that he remembers fondly was the invention of the television. “I can remember me and my buddies looking through people’s’ windows and seeing shows like “Howdy Doody” with Buffalo Bob playing. There had been nothing like it before.”

Taylor says there are two big differences he has seen throughout the generations. The present unbelievable lack of respect and another being social interactions. He explained that a lot of parents he sees now want to be friends, rather than parents with their kids. Which, in his opinion, leads to kids not respecting their parent or anybody else. Another phenom between the generations he notices is kids today would rather stay indoors that play outside.

“We now live in a very opportune time. The access to opportunities now is insane …. If you want people to see your film you can upload it to YouTube. You could become a broadcaster just by putting yourself out there on the internet.”

One of his fondest memories of the past was getting to hear Martin Luther King Jr. in person. He said MLK mesmerized him with his speaking ability — it was clear, concise, peaceful, and to the point.

“The things I saw were unbelievable. But the things you will see will be incredible … if you’re watching.”


“Nowadays, everyone is connected.”

Marcus Cummings, a 56-year-old chemist from New Jersey, enjoyed a day at the PicklesBurgh festival. Photo credit: Michael Booker


“Growing up in the 70s was quite an experience,” said Marcus Cummings, a 56-year-old chemist from New Jersey.

The biggest trends of his childhood, as he recalled, were bell bottom jeans and nik-nik polyester shirts. According to Marcus there was barely any conflict in neighborhoods.

“We took care of each other,” he said. “Back in my days, there were no guns and knives. We would fight with our fists and hug when it’s over.”

One other difference Cummings said he’s noticed is that trends are more prevalent due to the increase in social media.

“It’s fantastic. The technology now is a lot better than it was way back when. Nowadays, everyone is connected and social media has never been bigger.”

Overall he has an appreciation for millennials, especially how they’ve opened the various ways to become anything. “The opportunities you guys have are incredible. There is an outlet for everyone to be unique in their own way.”

Cummings stated he sees generational goals within his own family. “My father was a physician who built jet engines. My daughter is now currently attending law school at Duquesne University. Which are are two very different spectrums.”

According to him, “It goes to show you that things get better as they progress … and remember, if you don’t look back, you don’t know where you came from.”


“It’s like they are not in the real world.”

Gavin Virag, 26, is a music teacher and band director at Apollo-Ridge High School. Photo credit: Michael Booker


Gavin Virag, 26, is a music teacher and band director at Apollo-Ridge High School. Born and raised in Natrona Heights, Virag knew from an early age that he wanted to be a music teacher.

He has played for several bands and orchestras, performed with street jazz bands and recorded CDs.

“Yeah, I had the opportunity to play video games and go to parties. I just thought music was more interesting than that. Going to music school was an excuse to play my trombone.”

The biggest 90s trends, he recalls, were Beanie Babies, Furbies, Tamagotchis, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. Since he grew up in the 90s, he categorized his generation as privileged.

“As a millennial we have this, “We-want-what-we-want-because-we-want-it-type fixation.”

Virag went on to explain that there are a few differences between the generations but the main one is the usage of technology.

“When I was a kid the technology was a lot slower. But now you guys have your cell phones and iPhones, the things that you can do with them are great.”

That greatness comes at a price however, as he states, “with the progression of technology is the fact that we become consumed by it.”

“The social media that these kids get on gets them nothing but trouble. They spend so much time in a screen, it’s like they are not in the real world.”

Vigra turned aside an implied notion that social interactions have become more prevalent digitally rather than face-to-face. But he then went on to say that social media is both a gift and a curse.

“Don’t get me wrong, social media is amazing but there is an extent to where some people take it too far. Cyberbullying is something that has become more mainstream now and everyone has become too sensitive about everything. Nowadays, opinions are constantly influenced on what other people think and say, barely anyone are themselves.”

As a teacher Virag tries to get his students to have a positive mindset and try and break, what he calls, the sensitivity barrier.


About the author: Michael Booker, 16, is from Spring Church, Armstrong County. He is a junior at Apollo-Ridge High School.